Houston (11-10) at Rutgers (8-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 1, 4:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: RAC (8,000) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: Houston 8-3, Rutgers 8-7. Away Record: Houston 2-5, Rutgers 0-6. Neutral Record: Houston 1-2, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: Houston 3-5, Rutgers 2-6. Series Record: Houston leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Two teams struggling to find some consistency down the stretch meet up in the Garden State on Saturday afternoon, as the Houston Cougars take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in an American Athletic Conference tilt.
Eddie Jordan's first season in Piscataway has come with its issues to this point. The Scarlet Knights are currently five games under .500 (8-13) thanks to four straight losses and six in the last seven games. Rutgers was last in action on Wednesday, dropping a shootout with Temple on the road, 88-82. With the loss to the Owls, Rutgers fell to a mere 2-6 in league play, just outside the conference cellar.
James Dickey's Cougars have hit a rough patch in their season as well, dropping their last three decisions to fall to just 3-5 in AAC action. Houston had the unenviable task of taking on a strong UConn team on the road on Thursday and was blown out by the Huskies, 80-43. Since a Jan. 4 win at USF, the Cougars have won just once against five losses.
That one win came against this same Rutgers squad, a 77-55 rout at home for Houston on Jan. 19, giving the Cougars a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series.
Nothing seemed to work for Houston in Storrs this week, as the Cougars shot an ugly .273 from the floor, including .111 from behind the arc (2-of-18), while allowing UConn to grab 55 rebounds and producing 21 second-chance points. Danrad Knowles was the only Cougar to reach double figures in the loss, finishing with 10 points. Star forward TaShawn Thomas was contained all game long, finishing with a mere four points, after scoring 23 in the first meeting with Connecticut.
Thomas has meant everything to the Houston attack this season. The 6-foot-8 junior is ranks highly in the conference in both scoring (sixth at 15.8 ppg) and rebounding (second at 8.6 rpg), while ranking among the top-15 nationally in field-goal percentage (.599) and blocks per game (3.05 per game). Sophomore forward Danuel House (13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) provides depth up front, Jherrod Stiggers (9.8 ppg) highlights the perimeter play with a team-best 40 3- pointers.
Piling up wins is extremely tough to do when a team is sporting a -11.7 scoring margin, That is the plight of the Scarlet Knights, who have struggled with consistent play at both ends of the floor. The team does possess some playmakers, namely junior guard Myles Mack, who has shown the ability to both score (15.7 ppg) and distribute (4.3 apg) at a high rate. Junior forward Kadeem Jack provides frontcourt balance at 13.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Depth comes in the form of senior swingman J.J. Moore (11.5 ppg) and junior guard Jerome Seagears (9.4 ppg).
The Scarlet Knights made a valiant comeback, trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half to take a brief lead late, before succumbing to the Owls in Philadelphia last time out. Rutgers shot an impressive .525 from the floor overall, including a season-high .588 from behind the arc (10-of-17) in the loss. Jack led four Knights in double figures with 18 points. Junior Etou added 14 points, while Moore and Mack finished with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
If the Scarlet Knights carry over their strong shooting performance from earlier in the week, they have a good chance of ending their current skid. However, they were no match for Houston a couple of weeks ago and even the homecourt advantage may not be enough to prevent the Cougars from earning a road win here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 71, Rutgers 69
02/01 11:51:16 ET